USDA Reports Another Dry Winter for Oregon

Oregon’s dry spell has continued into the new year, causing concern for local agriculture in 2020.    

According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the state has only received 45 percent of the usual amount of water from snow this winter, and snowfall is below average in all but one water basin. The Hood, Sandy and Lower Deschutes basins rank the lowest with 25 percent of their normal snowfall, closely followed by the Willamette Basin with 26 percent.   

The lack of snowfall could seriously affect local agriculture, as water from snowpack is vital for irrigation and livestock, especially in Eastern Oregon.   

In an interview with The Capital Press, local NRCS snow survey supervisor Scott Oviatt said “We’re not in panic mode yet. It is early in the (water) year … We can see some improvement, depending on conditions.”   

Oviatt also reported that the state’s overall precipitation, including rain, was about 50 percent of its normal amount.   

Stream flows are faring poorly as well, according to the Oregon Water Resources Department, reaching only 40 percent of their normal levels.  

“We certainly would like to see better and more consistent stream flows and a greater snowpack at this point,” said OWRD spokeswoman Racquel Rancier. “Conditions need to greatly improve in the coming months in order to have a more normal water year.”  

As of now, roughly 98 percent of Oregon is considered to be in a state of drought by the U.S. Drought Monitor, the intensity ranging from “moderate” at best to “abnormally dry” at worst.  

However, Oviatt points out that the state had even less snowpack last January, which was counteracted by massive winter storms in February.   

“At this point, our message will be to watch the conditions,” Oviatt said. “Let’s just hope for improvement at this point.”